Sunday, June 5, 2011

on a lighter note...

Why don't we talk about food tonight?  Food so good that it can't possibly stir up controversy since it can be unanimously agreed upon that good food can also be tasty food (and pretty food - let's not neglect the food porn).  Why don't we do it like this: first we'll have a picture parade (to make up for last night's dearth), then we'll talk about the new menu.  Ready?  Let's go.

Last night, before I got all caught up in reading Mama Pea's post and answering some of the commenters with my own thoughts, leading to my novel-post because I had to get all those thoughts swimming around my head out in some kind of semi-coherent way, I made Rice Island Casserole from Vegan on the Cheap.  This is another one of those "baked" recipes that I have turned into a stovetop simmer recipe, because brown rice and my baking skills just do not get along.  I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but in my world, rice does not cook in the oven but rather on top of it.

It's such a good dinner - I never have trouble clearing my plate.

Or bowl.  Whatever.  The one thing I'm a little sad about is purely aesthetic - the kidney beans are pale.  Mister was kind enough to accompany me to both stores last weekend, enabling me to shop faster (he was just following me around with the baskets) and buy a little more (since he was there to help carry - he's such a handsome little pack-mule).  When we were at Superfresh, he made a comment on the absurdly high price of beans.

Beans are supposed to be cheap, right?  I mean, isn't that the punchline - "we were so poor growing up that mom ate beans because there was only enough 'real food' for us kids" right?  Actually, I know someone who did eat beans so her children could have more substantial food.  Anyway, I haven't been paying attention really, because beans are just one of those "essential" items that I pick up every single time I'm at the store.  It wouldn't really matter if they had tripled in price - I would still buy them and just be surprised at my higher bill.  His initial impetus to exclaiming his disbelief was that he wanted to pick up a can or two of refried beans but they were "way too expensive."  We happened to be having this conversation as I was picking out the whole beans and I noticed a huge difference in price between the dark and light kidney beans.  I don't actually know, besides color, what the difference is between them (logic would dictate the darker beans would be higher in antioxidants, but that's just a guess), so I decided we didn't need the more-expensive dark kidney beans.

They are much prettier, though.

Speaking of pretty (I'm getting so good at these segues), how about these cherries?

Every week, Whole Foods reduces the price by $1, but I really don't think they'll go much lower than $5/lb, so I decided this was the magical week we could have some.  If I'm wrong, well, I guess we'll have to get some more when they're a lower price, won't we?  I wouldn't mind - they were as sweet, juicy, and ripe as they are beautiful.  Cherry red is one of my very favorite colors (you might have guessed that from the placemats).

I actually got up early enough today to go to the Headhouse Farmers Market.  Well, to be honest, I frequently get up early enough to go to the farmers market but end up missing it because I'd rather spend the time waking up slowly and watching Evanescence or P!nk videos on YouTube.  Today I actually went...and was disappointed.  I guess it would have been okay if I didn't have a specific list of items in mind and if I was willing to pay more to support local agriculture that may or may not use genetically modified seeds.  I will probably return in the future, because there were a lot of fun booths that had stuff I would buy if I weren't on a budget, but I tried really hard to be frugal this week since there are a lot of beginning-of-the-month expenses to wipe out the paycheck I just got. 

After playing at the farmers market, Mister and I met up with my parents for a little brunch at Farmicia in Olde City.  We went there almost exactly 2 months ago with them and they enjoyed it so much they specifically requested returning there, so I made the reservations and off we went.  There was a deflating baby and a squeaking fan, but as always the food was delicious and the cocktails inventive.

I had the same thing I had last time, but this time I actually remembered my camera.  This is the Scrambled Tofu with Vegan Chorizo.  Obviously, that's on the right.  In the back were sopapillas (kind of like Mexican pita) to scoop up various parts of the meal.  On the left is a crisp tortilla with a generous lump of avocado-tomato salsa.  The tofu could have had a little more flavor, but its relative blandness helped to even out the spicy kick of the chorizo.  The sopapillas are pillow-soft and delightfully chewy and did a great job delivering the big chunks of avocado, dotted with crisp tomatoes, to my mouth.  In the back right, you may observe a slightly cloudy-looking drink.  That was my Little Miss Sunshine.  I ordered it because the name is hilarious and because it sounded fun - strawberry-flavored vodka with fresh lemonade.  It was very easy to drink and if I didn't keep reminding myself it had alcohol in it, I probably could have knocked back two with minimal effort.

Before they left, my mother gave me a delightfully fragrant, hydroponic basil plant.

Let's see how long it takes either for me to kill it or Angst to eat it.  Mister and I are fairly confident that he would be repulsed into stopping his nibbles after only one bite (which would confirm that it is most definitely not spinach), but I'm hoping that he can smell that it's not spinach and just stays away from it.  It looks so pretty in its Classico jar (bonus: if Angst does decide to eat it and knocks over the jar, at least I won't have lost another vase).

Since I had all day, pretty much, to prep for dinner, I saved the most time-consuming recipe on the menu for last - Orzo Pilaf from Vegan on the Cheap with Tofeta from How It All Vegan.  As I mentioned in the menu, VotC has its own tofeta recipe, but I like the one in HIAV better.

I needed a new dress for Cousin's wedding this weekend.  Okay.  I didn't need one, but I can only wear the same dresses so many times before people start wondering if I do laundry.  Besides, the last time I bought a dress, it was for my wedding, so I think it's okay to get another one after 4 years.  Anyway, before I headed out to Greene Street Consignment, I put the tofu in my handy-dandy Tofu Xpress to press while I shopped.  When I returned, with a dress, I diced it and put it back in the box along with the marinade to which I accidentally added twice as much basil as the recipe prescribed, then let it marinate for an hour in the fridge while I did other stuff.

building a base of greens tasty

I really like the crunch and varied texture provided by the lettuce leaves.  I've made this before and did not serve it as a salad and it was just fine, but I think this is a better way for the future.

Finally, the new menu.  More than half of it comes from a cookbook I have pretty well neglected since we moved: The Complete Vegan Cookbook.  That's a shame - it has a lot of good recipes.  So I started my recipe search there and nearly concluded it there as well, except that I had at least one recipe I knew I wanted to make from Vegan on the Cheap (will I ever get tired of this cookbook?).

1. Curried Cauliflower, Garbanzo, and Tomato Salad from CVC because cauliflower is awesome, but curried cauliflower = Mister in heaven.

2. Pasta Puttanesca with Artichokes, also from CVC.  I really like puttanesca sauces - they are so flavorful as to be nearly overwhelming.  I am curious about the combination of what I consider two fairly different tastes (and I might be doing it wrong, so I guess we'll see).  Puttanesca sauce is salty and kind of dark tasting, whereas I consider artichokes a little tangy from the brine they usually soak in during storage.  I'm supposed to be using frozen artichokes, though, but I couldn't find any.

3. Bulgur and Red Lentil Pilaf with Kale and Olives, also from CVC.  I love this dish.  That's all.

4. Provencal Black-Eyed Peas with Asparagus, also from CVC.  When we were first dating, Mister and I worked very close to one another, so we would sometimes take a short break for ice cream or other little treats.  A few times, I stopped at Baskin-Robbins on the way to meet him and I would call and ask what he wanted - his answer was normally, "whatever's weird."  In the spirit of that, I chose this dish - it's definitely weird: Black-Eyed Peas definitely have their place in Cajun/Creole cooking, and that cuisine is certainly influenced by Provence, but I think we're taking a mighty big leap here.  And then there's the asparagus.  That just doesn't make any sense to me.

5. Farfalle with White Beans and Cabbage from VotC.  I bought a big head of red cabbage for one of last week's salads and only used a very small amount.  The recipe calls for green cabbage, but we're just going to improvise a little.

6. Coconut Curry Rice also from VotC, except I forgot to pick up more curry powder.  Looks like a mid-week trip to Whole Foods is in my future...

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